Confidence in the workplace


Cornwall-based confidence and mindset specialist, The Academe, has completed the first phase of a new piece of research specifically looking at how the confidence and self-esteem of employees directly impacts on business growth. The research has highlighted some surprising findings concerning the different experiences men and women have when it comes to low confidence and self-esteem.

With this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8) theme being Embracing Equity, The Academe has released the headline findings from its study in time for this years’ celebrations in a bid to start a bigger conversation around confidence and self-esteem in the workplace.

The study took place in late 2022 and gathered responses from over 75 businesses across the UK of varying sizes. In partnership with the Future Focus programme, the data from the study was then used to build on existing studies that have shown how detrimental low confidence can be within the workplace.

Participants ranged from entry-level employees to business owners and showed that a whopping 98% of women said they had struggled with self-doubt, compared to 85% of men. This highlights how widespread self-doubt is among all employees, but also that it is either more prevalent with women, or that men struggle more to recognise or admit to it.

When it came to describing how low confidence and self-esteem manifested itself, men showed higher levels of over-compensatory behaviours, such as confrontation, controlling and over-confidence, while women showed higher levels of perfectionism, pleasing and introversion. Women are also much more likely to develop hyper-vigilant tendencies.

This suggests that in a workplace where women feel under-confident, they are likely to become increasingly anxious, with a tendency to catastrophise imperfection and consequently are less likely to speak up, volunteer for things outside of their comfort zones, share ideas or contribute to meetings.

In summary, the study showed that on average men felt the need to make themselves bigger, whereas women were driven to make themselves smaller. This supports previous research that has demonstrated that a lack of confidence in the workplace likely costs women financially, contributing to the gender pay gap.

Lucy Cox, director of The Academe, said: “This International Women’s Day is about Embracing Equity. Helping women thrive in the workplace is important on so many levels, not least to ensure that women have the opportunity of wage parity and the ability to get the careers they deserve.

“This research builds on existing data showing women often demonstrate lower self-esteem than men in the workplace. The contribution that The Academe’s research makes to the picture is the specific ways in which women exhibit lower confidence, and the impacts that this can have to a woman’s career as well to industry as a whole.

“Confidence is often overlooked in the workplace, despite its evident impact on earning potential, staff retention, health and wellbeing, innovation, and growth. Businesses often choose to invest in training that tackles the fallout from low confidence, rather than the low-confidence itself. We want to ignite a conversation and support businesses to create environments where everyone can thrive. This starts with understanding what low confidence and self-esteem actually look like, and we are proud that this study is helping us do just that.”

The Academe is in the process of conducting further research in this area and will be releasing the results later this year. If you want to discuss how low confidence could be affecting you or your organisation or are interested in finding out more about this research, email